Can you teach resilience?

Can you teach resilience?

Here’s a question for folks who grew up “lower middle” and are now “rich.”

The grit, persistence and work ethic you learned as a child are hard to recreate for your own kids.

But at the same time, you don’t want them to have the childhood that you had.

How do you reconcile this?

The case of the messy car

Dude, it looked like a friggin’ war zone.

My friend was complaining about his kids.

It was littered with gummy bears,” he continued. “There were Yogurt pouches wedged between the seats. Even a half-eaten sandwich in a ziplock bag!

Anyone with young kids knows that the back seats of their car is the hottest of hot messes. It’s part Petri dish, part landfill.

But it wasn’t the trash that made my friend angry. It was the scene itself.

He had hired his regular “car wash guy” to clean and detail his car.

(We hire someone to do this as well – it’s actually cheaper than a car wash.)

And as my friend watched Car Wash Guy pull out a lone piece of Pirate’s Booty, he looked over in disgust towards his own kids.

They were jumping on the trampoline.

Blissfully unaware of the mess they had created. And that someone else was cleaning it up for them.

Not under my watch

Now, in a “lower middle” household, that would’ve never happened.

Let’s put aside the fact that those parents couldn’t afford a Car Wash Guy.

The kid(s) who created the mess would’ve cleaned it up.

Those were just the rules. You couldn’t even lodge a protest vote. (That might get you a whooping!)

And as a result, you learned self-sufficiency. Respect for your stuff. And the value of hard work.

(It also served as a powerful antidote against entitlement.)

Now, back to my friend.

He’s a very successful entrepreneur who came from a very modest background.

Yet because of something he wants (i.e. a clean car), he’s become an enabler of his kids’ transgressions (i.e. not cleaning up after themselves).

And this really upset him.

Starting on second base

Many of you reading this find yourself in this conundrum.

Your parents worked their butts off to give you a great education, opportunity and a life that had less struggle than theirs did.

To use Maslow’s hierarchy. Your parents were grinding away to provide Basic Needs (safety, food and shelter). And as a “lower middle” kid, you were along for that ride.

But now that you’re an adult and “rich,” Basic Needs are off the table. Your kids came out of the womb focusing on the upper part of the pyramid
“achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities.”

Said differently. You grew up starting at home plate. Your kids are starting off at second base.

And this is a beautiful aspect of parenthood. I have many peers in Finance and Big Tech who earned more in a single bonus than their parents made in a decade! (And the parents are damn proud!)

But there’s also a catch.

The Circularity of Self-Actualization

Most people believe that in order to reach your full potential (i.e. self-actualize), you need to develop resilience, persistence and a strong work ethic.

When you grow up “lower middle”, struggle is built into your life.

(To use software engineering terms, it’s a feature.)

Failures, setbacks, sacrifice and delayed gratification become etched into your psyche.

Sometimes, it’s healthy. And sometimes it’s buried deep in your neurosis via fear, scarcity and childhood trauma.

However, when you are raising kids as a “rich” family – the supply of “failures, setbacks and sacrifices” is decisively lower.

(The struggle, in this case, is a bug.)

Pretty much every generation of parents wants to give their kids a better upbringing than the one they had.

But herein lies the paradox: This “better upbringing” also misses a key component.

Parents now need to manufacture “failures, setbacks and sacrifices” in order to build the traits of resilience and work ethic.

Do they really need “manufactured struggle”?

What if replicating your childhood is actually an ego-centric activity?

What if manufacturing struggle actually misses the point?

Yes, I don’t want my kids to become entitled little f**ers. (Which they’re not.)

But I also want to lean into the fact they are starting their lives on second (or maybe third) base.

What if our responsibility as parents but to raise kind, confident and emotionally grounded children – who then set out and blaze their own unique trails?

Wouldn’t that be rad? As long as they keep that back seat clean as a whistle.

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